In 1999, a time when the internet was still prehistoric and streaming platforms were something that no one could have imagined, the world went to the cinema to see Bruce Willis take on the role of a child psychologist who meets little boy Cole in The Sixth Sense. It was a mystery film about which, at a time when the concept of “spoilers” was yet to be coined, it was completely forbidden to talk about the ending. The release was a big hit: it cost $40 million at the time and just in its opening weekend took $26 million at the US box office. In total, it grossed $673 million worldwide.
Some of the quotes and scenes from the movie – which was nominated for six Academy Awards – were burned into the collective consciousness, and the on-screen partnership of Willis and the little boy, played by Haley Joel Osment, will always be remembered. Today, Osment is about to turn 34 years old, and is still in the acting business, albeit these days more focused on TV. When his former co-star Bruce Willis recently announced that he was retiring from acting due to aphasia – a language disorder that can affect sufferers’ ability to communicate – Osment wanted to dedicate some affectionate words to the 67-year-old.
“It’s been difficult to find the right words for someone I’ve always looked up to – first on the big screen, and then by some wild stroke of luck, in person,” Osment wrote on Instagram, along with a black-and-white photo of Willis. “He’s a true legend who has enriched all of our lives with a singular career that spans nearly half a century. I am so grateful for what I got to witness firsthand, and for the enormous body of work he built for us to enjoy for years and years to come. I just wanted to express the respect and deep admiration I have for Bruce and his family as they move forward with the courage and high spirits that have always defined them.”
It was on March 30 when Willis’s family released a statement confirming that he would be retiring from acting. “To Bruce’s amazing supporters, as a family we wanted to share that our beloved Bruce has been experiencing some health issues and has recently been diagnosed with aphasia, which is impacting his cognitive abilities. As a result of this and with much consideration Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him,” read a post on the Instagram account of his daughter, Rumer Willis. “This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support. We are moving through this as a strong family unit, and wanted to bring his fans in because we know how much he means to you, as you do to him. As Bruce always says, ‘Live it up’ and together we plan to do just that. Love, Emma, Demi, Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel, & Evelyn.”
Aphasia can cause problems with language understanding and expression, and can usually come on quickly after brain damage such as a stroke. After Willis’s diagnosis and retirement, many of his friends, relatives and admirers wanted to show their affection and support. Everyone from his ex-wife Demi Moore and his daughters, to his colleagues in the industry sent messages. “Sending love and support dearest Demi,” said his former co-star Melanie Griffith. “Grace and Guts! Love to you all!” wrote actress Jamie Lee Curtis.